“The Biggest Misconception About The Film Industry Is That It Makes Sense” Says Chris Coggins, Manager At Heroes And Villains

“The Biggest Misconception About The Film Industry Is That It Makes Sense” Says Chris Coggins, Manager At Heroes And Villains
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Chris Coggins’ film and TV experience spans development and production in the feature, television and digital space. She has worked for major companies including Escape Artists (Sony) and Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp. Coggins has landed at Heroes and Villains Management where she now represents writers, actors and directors. She shared her thoughts with Creative Screenwriting Magazine on the state of industry and waht screenwriters need to know to break in.

What are the qualities of a successful manager?

In terms of successful qualities for a manager to have with his/her/their clients, I think you have to have open communication, a shared camaraderie, determination, and resiliency as you are both going to hear 1000+ nos until you hear a yes. (But all you need is that one yes.) Qualities I think successful managers should have in working with execs/producers/money people/etc. are, again, good communication, more than a cursory knowledge of a company’s mandate, and an exec’s personal taste and a mutual respect for everyone’s time.

What are the qualities of a successful screenwriter?

Apart from a firm grasp of the screenwriting craft, the personal traits of writers who make it include joy, intense curiosity, dedication, determination, being realistic, having a unique point of view in their storytelling, specificity, resiliency, and being a good human being.

Writers should also know that a finished movie or episode is a very different medium than a script, be a multi-hyphenate, make your own stuff, traveling, talking, crying, having an appetite for life and all the things that can go wrong… as well as right.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine

Chris Coggins

How do you know if a screenwriter is ready for representation?

A screenwriter can be ready for representation at any time. It depends on finding the right rep for you. I’ll take a flyer on someone who hasn’t traditionally done a lot in the business if I see potential and uniqueness. This business really is a marathon for most of us and when I find someone who has talent (whatever form that talent inhabits) and he/she/they understand the long and winding road, I hang on to them. Hopefully, they will also hang onto me.

When is the right time for a screenwriter seek representation?

There isn’t one answer to that. So frustrating, right? I know. A writer really has to find the right rep who gets them at the time and place they are in at that moment. However, ideally have at least one solid feature or TV sample and have several others in various stages of development.

Have a lot of ideas, but don’t have a lot of scripts. Figure out what your brand/genre/lane is and find a foundation in that. Expand on that brand later, but figure out your voice (which can take a lot of time and introspection) before you look for a rep. Writers will always be fine-tuning their writing voice throughout their careers.

What does a healthy manager/ client relationship look like?

It’s different than other relationships in that it is professional, however it’s really the same qualities of any healthy relationship. It needs communication, loyalty, inside jokes, healthy disagreement, trust, time for silliness, time for examination, time for getting it done. And don’t forget that writers write. Unfinished screenplays don’t get sold.

What should a screenwriter expect if they sign with you?

A client should expect me to work my ass off – which I expect them to reciprocate.

What most attracts you to a project/ writer?

I love when a screenplay punches you with some kind of authenticity, weirdness, or an odd point of view. I want to find people who can introduce me to seeing the world in a new way.

How would you describe your current film and TV tastes? What is must watch material you advise your clients to watch?

I’m eclectic.

I don’t pay attention to reviews or advertising. I like to pay attention to what the zeitgeist is talking about and then check it out. Fortunately in LA we hear about good things quickly, because when when I hear the rest of the country or world loving something I usually end up not liking it. How much space do you have?

Also, a viewer should know the history and context of what they watch. Must watch TV is the classic HBO cannon – Sex and the City, Sopranos, Ali G, Sports Night, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Broad City, Golden Girls, Killing Eve, Fleabag, Unreal, the first 5 seasons of Walking Dead (to see what happened when they switched show runners each season), any and all Norman Lear, Police Woman, NYPD Blue, St Elmo’s Fire, Sesame Street, Pen15, When They See Us – I could go on and on… and on.

There are too many films to name! LA Confidential, Jaws, When Harry Met Sally, Voyager Now, Close Encounters, All About Eve, Border, The Rider, Billy Wilder, Goddard, Bergman, Bigelow, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Ang Lee, any film a woman directed, the Foreign Language Oscar nominees.

What is the current state of the industry and how can screenwriters best take advantage of it?

The industry is always in flux. Writers have to know their craft and be ready for anything. We have no idea what’s coming next – what platform or format is around the corner – but we do know that storytelling has been around for thousands of years for a reason. Stories will simply be told in different ways.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions aspiring screenwriters have about the industry?

The biggest misconception about the industry is that it makes sense, there are rules and ladders and people know what they’re doing. We’re all making it up as we go along. That’s the fun of it.

Where do find new writer clients?

I get most of my clients from referrals. Some I found through festivals but that’s rare.

What makes you stop reading a script submission?

I stop when I’m bored – which can happen on page one. Show me something right away. Punch the reader in the face. Don’t wait to make it interesting. And if you are building up to something that takes a few pages, play around. There isn’t a law that says you have to format the words on the page a certain way.

How can a screenwriter stay vibrant and relevant in the marketplace?

Have the qualities I listed above first. Then writers should always write what they want to write and – this is very important – have purpose in writing it. Never write to what’s trendy or what you think already works or what you think people want to read. Show them what they want to read.

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